American Sociological Association Section on

Sociology of Religion


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Volume VII, Number 2                    Winter 2001


Graduate Education
Religion and Social Theory in Asia
New ASA Schedule
Candidates for Section Officers
Call for Papers (SISR)
Nominations for Awards
Publishing: New Series
Member Publications
Conference Announcement

Officers of the Section

Nancy T. Ammerman, Hartford Seminary,

Rhys Williams, Southern Illinois University,
Past Chair:
Patrick McNamara, University of New Mexico,
Adair Lummis, Hartford Seminary,
Newsletter Editor:
Joseph B. Tamney, Ball State University,

Marie Cornwall (01), Brigham Young University,
Katherine Meyer (01), Ohio State University,
Michele Dillion (02), Yale University,
R. Steven Warner (02), University of Illinois-Chicago,
Penny Edgell Becker (03), Cornell University,
Michael Emerson (03), Rice University,

Graduate Education in Sociology
A report on the 2000 Survey

Nancy Ammerman and Robert Woodberry

In May of 2000, the ASA Section on Sociology of Religion mailed a survey to all 167 students who were then members. We received completed returns from 62 of them (37%). These respondents may not be strictly representative of sociology of religion graduate students in general. For instance, 62.1% had already had their dissertation proposal approved, and 19.9% were actually finished. Three quarters are writing a dissertation in Sociology of Religion (or plan to). Thus our respondents seem to be serious about the field and relatively far along in their programs, as we might expect of students who join the section. It is also possible that the most active students in the most active departments were more likely to complete the survey, so that our statistics of activity and resources may be inflated - a guess, not something we can tell for sure. What we do know is that these results represent advanced students who are deeply enough involved in the field to join the Section and respond to a survey.  

What sorts of people are they? There are almost as many women (48%) as men, and the number of non-white respondents is over one quarter (28.3%). About half (49%) majored in sociology during their undergraduate education. Almost half (45.2%) came to sociology after having a previous career: nearly half of these in either religion (e.g., pastors and priests) or social work. Sociology of religion graduate students also claim a wide variety of religious traditions (probably a broader variety than was true of previous generations of sociologists of religion): Eighteen percent are Catholic; 21.3% Mainline Protestant; 23% Evangelical or Mormon; 26.2% non-religious, agnostics, or atheists; and 18% belong to religious traditions other than Christianity (e.g, Jewish, Buddhist, etc.).  

So what has their graduate school experience been like? Eighty-one percent have been able to take at least one course in sociology of religion. A similar number (82%) say they have at least one professor in their department who specializes in the field, and 81.7% said their library's holdings on religion were "good" or better. The same proportion (81%) say they have at least one student colleague in their department who is interested in the field. Over a third (36%) of the respondents had all of these basic elements available, and no one lacked them all. In fact, all but two students reported having two or more of these basic program structures in place. The students who have made it to the point of joining the Section (and who completed the survey) have at least minimal support in their departments for their work.

However, there were limits, as well. Nearly half (43.5%) reported that they could not take comprehensive exams in the sociology of religion. Sixty-one percent do not know of a funded research project on religion by faculty at their university. Many respondents also reported little contact with peers outside their departments. A third reported no contact with local peers interested in religion, and 48.4% had no contact with peers at other schools. 

Obviously not all programs are alike. Compared to those in private and public secular universities, students in universities that are religiously-affiliated reported that they have more courses available, more local student colleagues, and more professors who are interested in the study of religion. With all that, it is not surprising that they are also more likely to participate in informal colloquia focussed on sociology of religion. However, public university students report levels of support and encouragement for participating in professional meetings equal to those at religiously-affiliated schools. 

Most students (56.1%) report that their departments are at least minimally encouraging of their research on religion. However, forty-four percent report that their professors are either indifferent (31.6%), occasionally hostile (10.5%) or actively so (1 student). Attitudes are best at religiously affiliated institutions and worst in public universities. Although only 14% of the respondents are in religiously affiliated schools, half (54.3%) of those who report faculties who actively encourage religion research come from these schools. All faculty hostility reported occurred at state universities (where 20% report some hostility and 37.1% report indifference).  

Reports of attitudes of fellow students are similar. Overall 43.9% reported that their peers are indifferent or occasionally hostile. Again the situation is less positive at public universities. Students' perceptions of their peers' attitudes are highly correlated with their perceptions of faculty attitudes.  

It is difficult to discern, but these reports may reflect a sorting process. Students who are atheist, agnostic, or non-religious perceive their peer's attitudes as more negative. Similarly, those whose religious faith is least important to them perceive both their professors and peers as less encouraging.1 Among those who report a current affiliation, the specific type of affiliation has little impact on their perceptions of other's attitudes toward researching religion. Whether respondents are Evangelical, Mainline, Catholic, or Other makes little difference.  

Most individual-level differences disappear when we control for the type of program in which people are enrolled (i.e., state, private secular, or religiously affiliated); but there is one exception. Again, non-religious respondents, no matter what sort of program they are in, perceive other students' attitudes as more negative. This strongly suggests that there may be specific university sociology departments toward which non-religiously-committed students migrate or student cultures within departments that discourage research on religion. This, in turn, suggests that religious commitments may influence where respondents chose to do their graduate work. 

We wondered if the factors that influence attitudes toward the study of religion are different in sociology programs than in other majors and at state and private secular universities as opposed to religious schools. Thus we repeated the analysis selecting only respondents in sociology programs at state and private secular universities (N = 46).2 Again, perceptions of the climate of the department is not a matter of individual differences. Rather, it is strongly related to the resources actually available to students. That is, reported faculty attitudes toward religion as an object of study are less encouraging in programs that also have fewer resources - fewer courses, fewer faculty, less research, fewer student peers, fewer library resources.3 

As with all correlations, this one can't show causality, but it does tell us that there are real differences among students in the sociology of religion. Many have access to relatively rich resources for study and perceive their departments as encouraging places in which to do their work. A significant minority, however, lack many of the resources that would make their graduate education complete and work in an environment where there is little faculty or peer encouragement for their work. 

If you have ideas for how to address these issues, we invite a dialogue. Address comments to the Section Listserv at .

1In all regressions we used ordered logit because the dependent variables have 4 or 5 response options. We chose a two-tailed significance level of .1 because we have a maximum of 62 cases. However, in virtually all case the results we describe are significant at the .05 level.

2In all the following analyses we controlled for the difference between state and private universities.

3Factors were generally consistent if we further restricted the sample to only sociology programs at state universities, although at state universities the importance of respondent's religion had a stronger positive influence on perception of students attitudes, and lack of resources had a weaker negative impact on faculty attitudes.


Contemporary sociologists of religion--with a few notable exceptions--have paid little attention to religious phenomena outside of the Judeo-Christian world. Religions in the great Asian civilizations have escaped much recent analysis except by a handful of sociologists. This neglect is understandable. Asian languages are a formidable barrier, and access is difficult from North American and European universities. But the consequence is that the sociology of religion is still too parochial when measured against the full range of religious phenomena. We (as a discipline) know more about minor sects and cults in North America and Europe than about religions with hundreds of millions of practitioners in Asia. Our best theories need to be tested in Asian contexts.

One reason to do so is that the range of religious belief and practice, and of religion-state interactions, is much wider in Asia than in contemporary Western societies. In East Asia one can observe worship of the most primitive spirits known to the history of religions, and sects which have merged the major world faiths into a single system. Some worshippers petition Chinese gods who dress and act like mandarins (and prefer gifts of incense and "gold" bars), while others give offerings to a slovenly god-saint who rejects all hierarchy (and prefers gifts of brandy). One can observe a god writing moralistic messages to the world through an inspired devotee, while next door the gods speak about everyday urban troubles through obscure poems selected by divination. Exchanges between gods and humans are often earthy and materialistic in Asia, yet there are worshippers who seem to seek justice for others without reward for themselves. Historical competition among faiths has led to mutual copying of belief and practice, the merging of deities, struggles between religious and secular groups over control of the state, resurgence of religions with the decline of ideology, and other phenomena hardly studied in our discipline. The empirical and theoretical opportunities and challenges in Asia are everywhere. But where are the sociologists of religion?

The obvious solution: more Asian sociologists of religion, in Asia. But for various reasons, most of these societies produce few studies of religion which address current theoretical issues in the sociology of religion. The reasons deserve another essay. Meanwhile, what is to be done?

Graduate students: if you are theoretically ambitious, read the few classics (not Weber: I’m talking about works such as C.K. Yang’s Religion in Chinese Society, published in 1961), and then explore the more recent literatures in anthropology and the history of Asian religions for challenges. Supervisors: tolerate proposals to apply theory to Asian cases, even through secondary analysis. Develop links with anthropologists and historians who work on religion and culture in Asia. Invite them to give seminars and collaborate on supervisions. Try to collaborate on papers. Try to get them to take your theories seriously. Good luck!

I welcome comments on the (admittedly provocative) remarks above.

Graeme Lang,
City University of Hong Kong



The decision by ASA to move from a 5-day meeting to a 4-day one has two important benefits for the Religion Section. Most immediately, the Sections that will be scheduled on the last meeting day in 2001 have been awarded a "combat bonus." In addition to our regular allotment of sessions, we have been assigned one extra time slot for this year. We are at work planning a special invited panel presentation to supplement the three paper sessions and the roundtables we had already announced. The other benefit is simply the expectation that a shorter meeting time will mean more participation on that fourth day. It also means that our Section meetings will never be more than two days following the close of the Association for the Sociology of Religion meetings, and will overlap with those meetings or be immediately following in three years out of four.   We look forward to seeing you in Anaheim for a full day of Religion Section activities on Tuesday, August 21! 




Michele Dillon

PRESENT POSITION: Associate Professor of Sociology, Yale University (1993-present).
EDUCATION: B.Soc.Sc. (1980); M.Soc.Sc. (1983), University College Dublin; Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (1989).
OFFICES, COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIPS, AND EDITORIAL APPOINTMENTS HELD IN ASA: Council Member Sociology of Religion Section (2000-2002), Editorial Board, Sociological Theory (2000-2003); Sociology of Culture Section, Book Award Committee (1996).
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Debating Divorce: Moral Conflict in Ireland, University Press of Kentucky (1993); Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power, Cambridge University Press (1999); editor, Handbook of the Sociology of Religion, Cambridge University Press, (forthcoming, 2002); Book Review Editor, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (1999-2002); Graduate Mentoring Award, Yale University (2000).

Edward A. Tiryakian

PRESENT POSITION: Professor, Department of Sociology, Duke University (1965- present).
EDUCATION: B.A., Princeton University (1952); Ph.D. Harvard University (1956).
OFFICES, COMMITTEES HELD IN ASA: Chairman, Theory Section, 1974-75, 1985-86; Council, Sociology of Religion Section, 1995-96; Chair, Committee on International Cooperation 1971-73; Chair, Committee on World Sociology, 1973-76; Chair, Committee on Nominations (1965); Coordinator, Western European Liaison Group (1977-81).
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS [RELATED TO THIS SECTION]: "Puritan America in the Modern World: Mission Impossible?" Sociological Analysis, 43 (1982); "From Durkheim to Managua: Revolutions as Religious Revivals," in J. Alexander, ed., Durkheimian Sociology (1987); "American Religious Exceptionalism: a Reconsideration," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 527 (1993); "Collective Effervescence, Social Change and Charisma: Durkheim, Weber and 1989," International Sociology, 10 (1995). President, American Society for the Study of Religion 1981-84.

SECTION OFFICE: Secretary-Treasurer

Bryan T. Froehle

PRESENT POSITION: Research Associate Professor, Georgetown University and Executive Director, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
EDUCATION: Ph.D., University of Michigan (1993).
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Catholicism USA (Orbis Books, 2000), co-authored with Mary L. Gautier; Program Chair, Association for the Sociology of Religion (1999); North-South Foundation Research Grant, (1995); National Sciences Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (1991).

William Silverman

PRESENT POSITION: Grants Administrator, Federation of Organizations for the New York State Mentally Disabled, Inc. (1998 - present.) [Federation is a social work agency that provides various social services in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, and Rockland Counties, New York State.]
EDUCATION: PhD, University of Minnesota, 1967.
OFFICES, COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIPS, AND EDITORIAL APPOINTMENTS HELD IN ASA: Member. Sociology of Religion Section, since 1998. Member, Book and articles awards committee, Sociology of Religion section, 1997.
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: "The exclusion of clergy from political office in American States", Sociology of Religion, Summer 2000, 223 - 230. Contributed five short articles to the Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, edited by William H. Swatos, Jr. for AltaMira Press, 1998. Secretary, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1990 - 1993. Secretary, Religious Research Association, 1971 - 1973.


Harriet Hartman

PRESENT POSITION: Associate Professor of Sociology, Rowan University (2000 - ).
EDUCATION: Ph.D, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1983).
Chair, ASA Section on Sociology of Religion Article Award Committee (2000); Member, ASA Section on Sociology of Religion Article Award Committee (1999); Member, Task Force on the Articulation of Two-Year and Four-Year Sociology Programs (1999 - ).
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: NSF POWRE Grant ("A Gender Lens on Rowan University's College of Engineering") (2000 -); Jacquet Research Award, Religious Research Association, "Ethnic and Religious Identity of Contemporary Jews" (1999); Fichter Research Grant, Association for Sociology of Religion, "Women and Religion: Gender Inequality among American Jews" (1995); co-author of the following: Gender Equality and American Jews, SUNY Press (1996); "Dimensions of Jewish Identity Among American Jews" (Forthcoming in Della Pergola, ed, Papers in Jewish Demography 1997); "Jewish Attitudes toward Intermarriage", Journal of Contemporary Religion, 2000; "Jewish Identity, Denomination, and Denominational Mobility," Social Identities, 1999; "More Jewish, Less Jewish: Implications for Education and Labor Force Characteristics", Sociology of Religion, 1996. Associate Editor, Sociology of Religion, (1997 - ); Reviewer, Journal of Contemporary Religion.

William A. Mirola

PRESENT POSITION: Assistant Professor, Marian College, Indianapolis (1995-present).
EDUCATION: Ph.D, Indiana University (1995).
OFFICES, COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIPS, AND EDITORIAL APPOINTMENTS HELD IN ASA: Member, Barrington Moore Award For Best Published Article/Book Committee of the Comparative-Historical Section, 1996-1998.
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Research Associate, Project on Religion and Urban Culture, The Polis Center, IUPUI (1999-present); Sociology of Religion: A Reader, Prentice-Hall (2001); "Shorter Hours and the Protestant Sabbath: Religious Framing and Movement Alliances in Late Nineteenth Century Chicago." Social Science History (Fall 1999); Fellowship, Pew Charitable Trust's Young Scholars in American Religion III Program (1997-1999).

Daniel V. A. Olson

PRESENT POSITION: Associate Professor, Indiana University South Bend (1995-Present).
EDUCATION: Ph.D., University of Chicago (1987)
OFFICES, COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIPS, AND EDITORIAL APPOINTMENTS HELD IN ASA: consulting editor, American Journal of Sociology (1994-96), Secretary, Religious Research Association (2000-2001), Assoc. editor Sociology of Religion (1997-present).
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Swatos, William H., Jr. and Daniel V. A. Olson, eds. The Secularization Debate, Rowman & Littlefield; Olson, Daniel V. A. and C. Kirk Hadaway, 1999, "Religious Pluralism and Affiliation Among Canadian Counties and Cities." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(4): 490-508; Olson, Daniel V. A., 1999, "Religious Pluralism and U.S. Church membership: A Reassessment." Sociology of Religion 60 (2): 149-173; FACET (Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching) award, 1997; Olson, Daniel V. A., 1997, "Dimensions of Cultural Tension among the American Public," in Culture Wars in American Politics: Critical Reviews of a Popular Thesis, Rhys Williams, editor. New York: Aldine De Gruyter, pp. 237-258. More information at

Milagros Peña

PRESENT POSITION: Associate Professor, University of Florida (1999-present).
EDUCATION: Ph.D, State University of New York at Stony Brook (1990); M.Div., Union Theological Seminary (1983).
OFFICES, COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIPS, AND EDITORIAL APPOINTMENTS HELD IN ASA: Member, Sociology of Religion Section, Latina/o Sociology, Collective Behavior and Social Movements, Race, Gender, and Class, Racial and Ethnic Minorities.
PUBLICATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Theologies and Liberation in Peru: The Role of Ideas in Social Movements, Temple University Press (1995); 'Latina Religious Practice: Analyzing Cultural Dimensions in Measures of Religiosity," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (1998) with Lisa M. Frehill; "Liberation Theology in Peru: An Analysis of the Role of Intellectuals in Social Movements," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (1994); "The Sodalitium Vitae Movement in Peru: A Rewriting of Liberation Theology," Sociological Analysis (1992); Associate Editor, Sociology of Religion (1999-present; 1991-1996); Fellowship, Fulbright Scholar Award to Mexico (1995); Former President of PARAL (Program for the Analysis of Religion Among Latinas/os.



Society for the International Sociology of Religion (SISR)

The 26th SISR conference will take place at Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico from 20th to 24th August 2001. The general theme is Interpreting Religion Today: Competing Processes and Paradigms. Plenary sessions will focus on two general topics: religion, violence and social solidarity, religion and freedom. For all information about the conference, please contact the General Secretary as follows:

Louise Fontaine (SISR)
Université Sainte Anne
Pointe de l'Église, Nova Scotia,

Telephone: +1 902 769-2114, ext.: 205
fax: +1 902 769-2930

Information is also available on the SISR website:

The deadline for submitting proposals for papers and/or sessions is 1 February 2001.



Nominations for awards may be made by any member of the Section or by publishers. Authors are welcome to submit their own work. All nominated authors will be notified of their nominations by the Award Committee chair and must be members of the Section (or join) to remain in contention for the awards.

Book Award 



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